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  The Babylonians were exceptionally cruel to their women in at least this one famous instance and as a result became a much diluted branch of the human family, nationally speaking, through the occurrence described below.  It concerns the second conquest of Babylon, which was accomplished by a certain Darius (Darius the Mede, or another? No one seems sure.) This occurred some years after the first taking of Babyon by Cyrus of Persia and his confederation of allies.  This second conquest by Darius occurred around 520 B.C. 


  This excerpt is taken from a section of writing near the end of the 3rd book in Herodotus' great writing referred to as "the Histories", which you can find and read on line as well as at many libraries.  Herodotus was a Greek born within the Persian empire in what is today part of Turkey.  He lived from 484 B.C. to 425 B.C.  He is the best existing source for learning about certain portions of ancient history.  Some have called him the Father of History, but there are also some questionable claims in his writings.  He speaks about Phoenixes in one place, and in another about a race of dog faced men from north east Africa and about a few other such things that would seem fantastical.  Yet in his defense, Herodotus explains that he systematically interviewed travelers about and from distant parts of the world, some of which he never was personally able to travel to, and that he tried to give accurate and truthful accounts using these means. 

  This 3rd book in "the Histories" is called Thalia.  The 9 books in "the Histories" are each named after one of the 9 Muses from Greek mythology.  The Muses were supposed daughters of Zeus through their mother Mnemosyne, who was a Titaness, a daughter of Uranus and Gaia. 

  I included only a portion of the 3rd book.  There are a couple of paragraphs at the beginning that don't really apply...they just provide a little context...and then you will come to the portion about the siege of Babylon by Darius.


Begin Quote:

Maeandrius fled from Samos to Lacedaemon, and conveyed thither all the riches which he had brought away from the island, after which he acted as follows. Having placed upon his board all the gold and silver vessels that he had, and bade his servants employ themselves in cleaning them, he himself went and entered into conversation with Cleomenes, son of Anaxandridas, king of Sparta, and as they talked brought him along to his house. There Cleomenes, seeing the plate, was filled with wonder and astonishment; whereon the other begged that he would carry home with him any of the vessels that he liked. Maeandrius said this two or three times; but Cleomenes here displayed surpassing honesty. He refused the gift, and thinking that if Maeandrius made the same offers to others he would get the aid he sought, the Spartan king went straight to the ephors and told them “it would be best for Sparta that the Samian stranger should be sent away from the Peloponnese; for otherwise he might perchance persuade himself or some other Spartan to be base.” The ephors took his advice, and let Maeandrius know by a herald that he must leave the city.

Meanwhile the Persians netted Samos, and delivered it up to Syloson, stripped of all its men. After some time, however, this same general Otanes was induced to repeople it by a dream which he had, and a loathsome disease that seized on him.

After the armament of Otanes had set sail for Samos, the Babylonians revolted, having made every preparation for defence. During all the time that the Magus was king, and while the seven were conspiring, they had profited by the troubles, and had made themselves ready against a siege. And it happened somehow or other that no one perceived what they were doing. At last when the time came for rebelling openly, they did as follows:— having first set apart their mothers, each man chose besides out of his whole household one woman, whomsoever he pleased; these alone were allowed to live, while all the rest were brought to one place and strangled. The women chosen were kept to make bread for the men; while the others were strangled that they might not consume the stores.

When tidings reached Darius of what had happened, he drew together all his power, and began the war by marching straight upon Babylon, and laying siege to the place. The Babylonians, however, cared not a whit for his siege. Mounting upon the battlements that crowned their walls, they insulted and jeered at Darius and his mighty host. One even shouted to them and said, “Why sit ye there, Persians? why do ye not go back to your homes? Till mules foal ye will not take our city.” This was by a Babylonian who thought that a mule would never foal.

Now when a year and seven months had passed, Darius and his army were quite wearied out, finding that they could not anyhow take the city. All stratagems and all arts had been used, and yet the king could not prevail — not even when he tried the means by which Cyrus made himself master of the place. The Babylonians were ever upon the watch, and he found no way of conquering them.

At last, in the twentieth month, a marvellous thing happened to Zopyrus, son of the Megabyzus who was among the seven men that overthrew the Magus. One of his sumpter-mules gave birth to a foal. Zopyrus, when they told him, not thinking that it could be true, went and saw the colt with his own eyes; after which he commanded his servants to tell no one what had come to pass, while he himself pondered the matter. Calling to mind then the words of the Babylonian at the beginning of the siege, “Till mules foal ye shall not take our city”— he thought, as he reflected on this speech, that Babylon might now be taken. For it seemed to him that there was a Divine Providence in the man having used the phrase, and then his mule having foaled.

As soon therefore as he felt within himself that Babylon was fated to be taken, he went to Darius and asked him if he set a very high value on its conquest. When he found that Darius did indeed value it highly, he considered further with himself how he might make the deed his own, and be the man to take Babylon. Noble exploits in Persia are ever highly honoured and bring their authors to greatness. He therefore reviewed all ways of bringing the city under, but found none by which he could hope to prevail, unless he maimed himself and then went over to the enemy. To do this seeming to him a light matter, he mutilated himself in a way that was utterly without remedy. For he cut off his own nose and ears, and then, clipping his hair close and flogging himself with a scourge, he came in this plight before Darius.

Wrath stirred within the king at the sight of a man of his lofty rank in such a condition; leaping down from his throne, he exclaimed aloud, and asked Zopyrus who it was that had disfigured him, and what he had done to be so treated. Zopyrus answered, “There is not a man in the world, but thou, O king, that could reduce me to such a plight — no stranger’s hands have wrought this work on me, but my own only. I maimed myself I could not endure that the Assyrians should laugh at the Persians.” “Wretched man,” said Darius, “thou coverest the foulest deed with the fairest possible name, when thou sayest thy maiming is to help our siege forward. How will thy disfigurement, thou simpleton, induce the enemy to yield one day the sooner? Surely thou hadst gone out of thy mind when thou didst so misuse thyself.” “Had I told thee,” rejoined the other, “what I was bent on doing, thou wouldest not have suffered it; as it is, I kept my own counsel, and so accomplished my plans. Now, therefore, if there be no failure on thy part, we shall take Babylon. I will desert to the enemy as I am, and when I get into their city I will tell them that it is by thee I have been thus treated. I think they will believe my words, and entrust me with a command of troops. Thou, on thy part, must wait till the tenth day after I am entered within the town, and then place near to the gates of Semiramis a detachment of thy army, troops for whose loss thou wilt care little, a thousand men. Wait, after that, seven days, and post me another detachment, two thousand strong, at the Nineveh gates; then let twenty days pass, and at the end of that time station near the Chaldaean gates a body of four thousand. Let neither these nor the former troops be armed with any weapons but their swords — those thou mayest leave them. After the twenty days are over, bid thy whole army attack the city on every side, and put me two bodies of Persians, one at the Belian, the other at the Cissian gates; for I expect, that, on account of my successes, the Babylonians will entrust everything, even the keys of their gates, to me. Then it will be for me and my Persians to do the rest.”

Having left these instructions, Zopyrus fled towards the gates of the town, often looking back, to give himself the air of a deserter. The men upon the towers, whose business it was to keep a lookout, observing him, hastened down, and setting one of the gates slightly ajar, questioned him who he was, and on what errand he had come. He replied that he was Zopyrus, and had deserted to them from the Persians. Then the doorkeepers, when they heard this, carried him at once before the Magistrates. Introduced into the assembly, he began to bewail his misfortunes, telling them that Darius had maltreated him in the way they could see, only because he had given advice that the siege should be raised, since there seemed no hope of taking the city. “And now,” he went on to say, “my coming to you, Babylonians, will prove the greatest gain that you could possibly receive, while to Darius and the Persians it will be the severest loss. Verily he by whom I have been so mutilated shall not escape unpunished. And truly all the paths of his counsels are known to me.” Thus did Zopyrus speak.

The Babylonians, seeing a Persian of such exalted rank in so grievous a plight, his nose and ears cut off, his body red with marks of scourging and with blood, had no suspicion but that he spoke the truth, and was really come to be their friend and helper. They were ready, therefore, to grant him anything that he asked; and on his suing for a command, they entrusted to him a body of troops, with the help of which he proceeded to do as he had arranged with Darius. On the tenth day after his flight he led out his detachment, and surrounding the thousand men, whom Darius according to agreement had sent first, he fell upon them and slew them all. Then the Babylonians, seeing that his deeds were as brave as his words, were beyond measure pleased, and set no bounds to their trust. He waited, however, and when the next period agreed on had elapsed, again with a band of picked men he sallied forth, and slaughtered the two thousand. After this second exploit, his praise was in all mouths. Once more, however, he waited till the interval appointed had gone by, and then leading the troops to the place where the four thousand were, he put them also to the sword. This last victory gave the finishing stroke to his power, and made him all in all with the Babylonians: accordingly they committed to him the command of their whole army, and put the keys of their city into his hands.

Darius now, still keeping to the plan agreed upon, attacked the walls on every side, whereupon Zopyrus played out the remainder of his stratagem. While the Babylonians, crowding to the walls, did their best to resist the Persian assault, he threw open the Cissian and the Belian gates, and admitted the enemy. Such of the Babylonians as witnessed the treachery, took refuge in the temple of Jupiter Belus; the rest, who did not see it, kept at their posts, till at last they too learnt that they were betrayed.

Thus was Babylon taken for the second time. Darius having become master of the place, destroyed the wall, and tore down all the gates; for Cyrus had done neither the one nor the other when he took Babylon. He then chose out near three thousand of the leading citizens, and caused them to be crucified, while he allowed the remainder still to inhabit the city. Further, wishing to prevent the race of the Babylonians from becoming extinct, he provided wives for them in the room of those whom (as I explained before) they strangled, to save their stores. These he levied from the nations bordering on Babylonia, who were each required to send so large a number to Babylon, that in all there were collected no fewer than fifty thousand. It is from these women that the Babylonians of our times are sprung.

As for Zopyrus, he was considered by Darius to have surpassed, in the greatness of his achievements, all other Persians, whether of former or of later times, except only Cyrus — with whom no Persian ever yet thought himself worthy to compare. Darius, as the story goes, would often say that “he had rather Zopyrus were unmaimed, than be master of twenty more Babylons.” And he honoured Zopyrus greatly; year by year he presented him with all the gifts which are held in most esteem among the Persians; he gave him likewise the government of Babylon for his life, free from tribute; and he also granted him many other favours. Megabyzus, who held the command in Egypt against the Athenians and their allies, was a son of this Zopyrus. And Zopyrus, who fled from Persia to Athens, was a son of this Megabyzus.

End Quote


  So Babylon, these Chaldeans, this nation guilty of such cruelties as cutting open pregnant Israelite women with their swords (when they conquered Jerusalem and great portions of Israel in their 606 B.C. and 586 B.C. military campaigns under Nebuchadnezzar) was manipulated by what it perceived as desperate circumstances into doing things just as harsh or worse to their very own women only a few decades later.  And they, who tried to minimize the number of new Israelite babies that would be born by savagely slicing open pregnant Israelite women, became a genetically much diluted branch of the human family.  Their nation never rose to extreme prominence again.  We could remember that, long before this time, Egypt cruelly commanded their Israelite slaves to kill their own Israelite male children.  And what happened then?  A newborn male named Moses escaped through God's intention, and about 80 years later he brought God's 10 plagues to Egypt, ending in the death of all Egyptian firstborns.  In our general time, in the 1940's, Hitler similarly sought to erase God's people, who did not even possess a nation.  Now, less than 80 years later, the Nazis are a distant memory and tiny Israel is a small juggernaut of a nation with a table set before it by God in the presence of its surrounding neighbors, who have largely chosen to be enemy nations.  Israel is small, but a rich and lush and productive country set within a larger region of the world that is really pretty arid and hard to live in.  It has become that way in the last 100 years through hard work and more importantly God's wonderful blessing.  Those who oppress or attack God's specially chosen people bring doom upon their own people.  Their punishment always arrives soon enough.  That is the lesson of history.  Those who have tried to erase God's people from existence, in every age of history leading up to our time, have not fared well at all.    

  Of course, getting back to the original subject, ancient Babylon had more than one unaccountably odd and calloused way of treating their women.  Consider the following, from towards the last of Book 1 of "the Histories", where Herodotus recounts what he has been told about the Babylonian marriage market, though this custom he described had just recently been discontinued at the time he wrote.  (And Eneti in Illyria apparently observed this custom as well!) The Babylonians apparently felt that each years crop of young marriage eligible girls needed to become married, so they developed this highly unusual system of trying to see that each girl received a husband:


This is the equipment of their persons. I will now speak of their established customs. The wisest of these, in our judgment, is one which I have learned by inquiry is also a custom of the Eneti in Illyria. It is this: once a year in every village all the maidens as they attained marriageable age were collected and brought together into one place, with a crowd of men standing around. [2] Then a crier would display and offer them for sale one by one, first the fairest of all; and then, when she had fetched a great price, he put up for sale the next most attractive, selling all the maidens as lawful wives. Rich men of Assyria who desired to marry would outbid each other for the fairest; the ordinary people, who desired to marry and had no use for beauty, could take the ugly ones and money besides; [3] for when the crier had sold all the most attractive, he would put up the one that was least beautiful, or crippled, and offer her to whoever would take her to wife for the least amount, until she fell to one who promised to accept least; the money came from the sale of the attractive ones, who thus paid the dowry of the ugly and the crippled. But a man could not give his daughter in marriage to whomever he liked, nor could one that bought a girl take her away without giving security that he would in fact make her his wife. [4] And if the couple could not agree, it was a law that the money be returned. Men might also come from other villages to buy if they so desired. [5] This, then, was their best custom; but it does not continue at this time; they have invented a new one lately [so that the women not be wronged or taken to another city]; since the conquest of Babylon made them afflicted and poor, everyone of the people that lacks a livelihood prostitutes his daughters.

End Quote.

  The way I think when I read such things is that mankind, in a society not guided by the true God, comes up with ideas that range anywhere from ideas that would sound fairly normal to a Christian, to others which are anywhere from strange to even horrible, and yet people in those societies will easily enough accept it as their familiar paradigm, their cultural norm.  Without guidance...without God....the evil in the human heart can lead to places that no one should want to go!  And every age of history seems to be replete with such accounts.  I have to say thank you God for giving us your truths about what is right and wrong so that with your help we at least have a chance against our own sometimes poor use of our free will and the too often evil inclinations of our human hearts.

  Here, following, are a few other gleanings that are merely curiosities and unusual historical facts as given by Herodotus....not necessarily in any order and not necessarily connected to each other:

  1.)  The ancient people of the region of Armenia used to trade with the Babylonians.  They would float down the river in circular leather boats where the inner framework was made of cheap wood and the outside of expensively sewn, water tight leather.  These circular water craft were pretty large and held a fair amount of cargo weight.  Each would have a donkey aboard, riding along in the boat with the crew and the freight.  When they arrived at Babylon, they would unload the freight, take apart the boat and throw the wooden inner frame works away.  Because the current was strong and going upstream again would be so difficult they would then load the leather from the boat onto the donkey, and the donkey would head back to Armenia with them bearing the more valuable part of the boat on its back:  the shaped and sewn leather covering!  Good practical thinking!  Sect 195 of the first Book of the Histories.

2.)  The ancient capital city of the Medes called Ectabana sat on a sort of hill and had 7 concentric somewhat circular walls to defend it.  Each wall was higher up on the hill than the previous.  Each was painted a different color.  There was a white wall that was outermost.  Then a black one, then a purple wall, a blue wall, and an orange wall.  But the innermost weren't painted, they were overlaid with metal.  The 6th wall was silver, and the 7th and innermost wall was overlaid with gold.  It must have made quite a sight.  From section 99 of the first book of the Histories.  About the middle of that book.  

3.)  Being drawn into goddess worship (of false goddesses, of course) was always a problem for God's people.  And even more so for other peoples.  Herodotus mentions that the alleged oldest place of worship for the goddess called Aphrodite by the Greeks (Mylitta by Assyrians, Venus by Romans, Astarte by Phoenicians) was Ascalon (the sometimes Philistine held city of Ashkelon.)  He said that all of the other goddess temples in the area that he knew of acknowledged this temple of Aphrodite to be the oldest temple for Aphrodite.  Was it the very first, do you suppose?   

4,)  From book 2 of the Histories:  This Pharaoh went blind, and this was the cure.  But you also get a sense of the level of marital fidelity that existed in Egypt at this time!

When Sesostris died, he was succeeded in the kingship (the priests said) by his son Pheros48. This king waged no wars, and chanced to become blind, for the following reason: the Nile came down in such a flood as there had never been, rising to a height of thirty feet, and the water that flowed over the fields was roughened by a strong wind; [2] then, it is said, the king was so audacious as to seize a spear and hurl it into the midst of the river eddies. Right after this, he came down with a disease of the eyes, and became blind. When he had been blind for ten years, an oracle from the city of Buto declared to him that the term of his punishment was drawing to an end, and that he would regain his sight by washing his eyes with the urine of a woman who had never had intercourse with any man but her own husband. [3] Pheros tried his own wife first; and, as he remained blind, all women, one after another. When he at last recovered his sight, he took all the women whom he had tried, except the one who had made him see again, and gathered them into one town, the one which is now called “Red Clay”; having concentrated them together there, he burnt them and the town; [4] but the woman by whose means he had recovered his sight, he married. Most worthy of mention among the many offerings which he dedicated in all the noteworthy temples for his deliverance from blindness are the two marvelous stone obelisks which he set up in the temple of the Sun. Each of these is made of a single block, and is over one hundred and sixty-six feet high and thirteen feet thick. 112.

5.)  A worldly tidbit:  The comparative worth of Gold v.s. Silver in ancient Persia in about the 5th century B.C. from about the middle of Herodous' histories, book 3, is apparently about 13 times.  Quote:

If the Babylonian money here spoken of be reduced to the Euboic scale, it will make nine thousand five hundred and forty such talents; and if the gold be reckoned at thirteen times the worth of silver, the Indian gold-dust will come to four thousand six hundred and eighty talents. Add these two amounts together and the whole revenue which came in to Darius year by year will be found to be in Euboic money fourteen thousand five hundred and sixty talents, not to mention parts of a talent.

6.)  Herodotus knew the people of India to have especially large ants that kicked out useful amounts of gold granules from the sand as they made their ant hills.  From book 3 of the Histories:

[3.102] Besides these, there are Indians of another tribe, who border on the city of Caspatyrus, and the country of Pactyica; these people dwell northward of all the rest of the Indians, and follow nearly the same mode of life as the Bactrians. They are more warlike than any of the other tribes, and from them the men are sent forth who go to procure the gold. For it is in this part of India that the sandy desert lies. Here, in this desert, there live amid the sand great ants, in size somewhat less than dogs, but bigger than foxes. The Persian king has a number of them, which have been caught by the hunters in the land whereof we are speaking. Those ants make their dwellings under ground, and like the Greek ants, which they very much resemble in shape, throw up sand-heaps as they burrow. Now the sand which they throw up is full of gold. The Indians, when they go into the desert to collect this sand, take three camels and harness them together, a female in the middle and a male on either side, in a leading-rein. The rider sits on the female, and they are particular to choose for the purpose one that has but just dropped her young; for their female camels can run as fast as horses, while they bear burthens very much better.

[3.103] As the Greeks are well acquainted with the shape of the camel, I shall not trouble to describe it; but I shall mention what seems to have escaped their notice. The camel has in its hind legs four thigh-bones and four knee-joints.

[3.104] When the Indians therefore have thus equipped themselves they set off in quest of the gold, calculating the time so that they may be engaged in seizing it during the most sultry part of the day, when the ants hide themselves to escape the heat. The sun in those parts shines fiercest in the morning, not, as elsewhere, at noonday; the greatest heat is from the time when he has reached a certain height, until the hour at which the market closes. During this space he burns much more furiously than at midday in Greece, so that the men there are said at that time to drench themselves with water. At noon his heat is much the same in India as in other countries, after which, as the day declines, the warmth is only equal to that of the morning sun elsewhere. Towards evening the coolness increases, till about sunset it becomes very cold.

[3.105] When the Indians reach the place where the gold is, they fill their bags with the sand, and ride away at their best speed: the ants, however, scenting them, as the Persians say, rush forth in pursuit. Now these animals are, they declare, so swift, that there is nothing in the world like them: if it were not, therefore, that the Indians get a start while the ants are mustering, not a single gold-gatherer could escape. During the flight the male camels, which are not so fleet as the females, grow tired, and begin to drag, first one, and then the other; but the females recollect the young which they have left behind, and never give way or flag. Such, according to the Persians, is the manner in which the Indians get the greater part of their gold; some is dug out of the earth, but of this the supply is more scanty.

  And here is one that restores your faith in humanity.  Also...what a fun way to shop!  It is from near the very end of 'the Histories' book 4.

[4.196] The Carthaginians also relate the following:- There is a country in Libya, and a nation, beyond the Pillars of Hercules, which they are wont to visit, where they no sooner arrive but forthwith they unlade their wares, and, having disposed them after an orderly fashion along the beach, leave them, and, returning aboard their ships, raise a great smoke. The natives, when they see the smoke, come down to the shore, and, laying out to view so much gold as they think the worth of the wares, withdraw to a distance. The Carthaginians upon this come ashore and look. If they think the gold enough, they take it and go their way; but if it does not seem to them sufficient, they go aboard ship once more, and wait patiently. Then the others approach and add to their gold, till the Carthaginians are content. Neither party deals unfairly by the other: for they themselves never touch the gold till it comes up to the worth of their goods, nor do the natives ever carry off the goods till the gold is taken away.


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